The post-punk poster band Omni brings energy and interplay to Hackney's Oslo.
Jittering favourite ‘Southbound Station’ triggered bouts of frenetic head-bobbing from the get-go, before vocalist/bassist Philip Frobos introduced a handful of tracks from their recent album. Touring in support of third full-length release Networker - the band’s first on Sub Pop Records - there’s always an element of trepidation that older, sturdier tracks make way for newer material, to which Frobos almost apologetically preempted concerns beforehand through his infectiously gleaming smile.
Though Networker represents a culmination of the band’s craft, the production aligns with their previous two albums, so whilst they still maintain their beloved lo-fi, nonchalant aesthetic, there isn’t much radical progression. It satisfies the die-hards, for sure, but doesn’t quite whet the appetite of potential new listeners, if their interests hadn’t already been piqued by Omni’s methodical brand of post-punk. Hearing these new tracks in the flesh, however, they take on an entirely new guise. The biggest mid-set cheers expectedly came for the singles ‘Sincerely Yours’ and ‘Skeleton Key’, the latter resembling more of a 70s glam-stomper, with an irresistible bassline that’d make Bowie’s ‘Jean Genie’ blush. Not to say that they’ve abandoned the motorik, interlocking rhythms that defined their sound up until now, more so that they’ve always floated around the playful end of the post-punk spectrum, so are continuing to have fun.
At the fore of trio’s tightly interwoven guitar patterns is Deerhunter alumni Frankie Broyles who manages to bamboozle the entire left side of the venue with his intricate fretwork despite being enveloped in dry ice, ensuring the set effortlessly bops between goofy math-rock of Devo and brazen minimalism of Television, both bands of which have clearly had a huge part to play in Omni’s evolution.
Around the forty-minute mark in their set, the band get into the ‘Black Friday’ spirit by offering everyone 50% off t-shirts tonight, which unsurprisingly goes down a treat prompting a mass queue for merch post-show, before opening up about the pitfalls of touring: “This next song is about the difficulty connecting to partners back home” as they kick into ‘Present Tense’. It’s a running theme on Networker, the dislocation the band feels living via social media, and this offers a momentary glimpse into the grind of repetitive touring and hustling that we don’t often consider when renewing our Spotify subscriptions.
“This is where it gets exciting” Frobos wryly grins as the curfew loomed, then applauding the crowd to which his gratitude was reciprocated. With no reason not to believe him, the trio wrap up their set with a zippy rendition of ‘Courtesy Call’ followed by a blistering, drawn-out version of highlight ‘Wire’ - the energetic crescendo could’ve, and should’ve, lasted far longer if it weren’t for the aforementioned and unfortunate curfew.
Having recently been proclaimed as America’s best contemporary post-punk band, Omni has a lot to live up to, but on this display, you can’t argue with that.